My Soul is Weary: A Thanksgiving Message

As we stand in the kitchen making our smaller meals, our mourning begins to turn.

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I often hear people in the U.S. say Thanksgiving is their favorite holiday because it is about family, food, comfort, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, the National Dog Show, naps and college football. And that is true. But that is not all. There are other sides to the day.

For First Peoples, it is a day of remembering the cruelty and dispossession Native Americans have suffered throughout history since Europeans arrived on these shores. For many Thanksgiving is not a day to celebrate.

There is a plaque at Plymouth that reads: NATIONAL DAY OF MOURNING

Since 1970, Native Americans have gathered at noon on Cole’s Hill in Plymouth to commemorate a National Day of Mourning on the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday. Many Native Americans do not celebrate the arrival of the Pilgrims and other European settlers. To them, Thanksgiving Day is a reminder of the genocide of millions of their people, the theft of their lands, and the relentless assault on their cultures. Participants in National Day of Mourning honor Native ancestors and the struggles of Native peoples to survive today. It is a day of remembrance and spiritual connection as well as a protest of the racism and oppression which Native Americans continue to experience.

– Erected by the Town of Plymouth on behalf of the United American Indians of New England


As we prepare our own smaller Thanksgiving meals, we cannot keep our minds from wandering to the bittersweet layers of life this year. Racial inequities exposed, Indigenous communities and Black communities disproportionately suffering and dying from COVID-19. Miles of cars in food lines not unlike the food lines of the Great Depression.

Health care professionals dying. Ever increasing new cases of COVID. Older people alone in Assisted Living and Nursing homes. People with disabilities very isolated. Children in front of computers all day trying to learn history, math and language arts. College students arriving home, many for months hopefully not carrying the virus.

This “Thanksgiving,” in addition to my annual routine of the Macy’s Parade and Dog Show, I will add a new ritual. I will be praying a not so well-known hymn in The United Methodist Hymnal:

Daw-Kee, Aim Daw-Tsi-Taw (Great Spirit, Now I Pray)

Great Spirit, now I pray to you, I pray now to you, Great Spirit, hear me;
My soul is weary, now I pray that your spirit will dwell in me. (Kiowa prayer)

As we stand in the kitchen making our smaller meals, our mourning begins to turn.


Every day there is such sweetness and so much for which I am profoundly grateful. I do not want to relegate giving thanks to this day. I want to enjoy the joy and laughter of those who have so little. I passed a man who I know lives on the streets of Washington, D.C. and we spoke, and he asked how I was. I want to be touched in my bones for all things, little notes, drawings, hilarious gifs, water (reminding me of the baptism of belonging), bread and wine, community even on Zoom calls, texts that make boring meetings better, a computer, my night blooming cereus, the life and presence of William Bobby McClain, Cynthia Abrams, and thousands who passed this way giving back to the world joy, laughter, peace, justice and abundance.

I want to acknowledge the sacred grounds on which we stand.

I want to remember and hear something else this 2020 “Thanksgiving Day.” Dana Thompson, a co-owner of the Sioux Chef, an organization in the Twin Cities devoted to revitalizing Native American cuisine, said, “This year there is true Indigenous wisdom behind the philosophy of Thanksgiving – it’s about not taking but giving back.”

As Scripture teaches us,

You have turned my mourning into dancing;
You have taken off my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,
So that my soul may sing praise to You and not be silent.
O Lord my God, I will give thanks to You forever.

– Psalm 30:11-12